A honey of a hobby: VU’s popular beekeeper camp returning next month

Those feeling the sting of wanting to try their hand at beekeeping need look no further, Vincennes University has a honey of an opportunity for you.

The university will be offering its second beekeeper camp for those ages 12 and up this summer as part of its camp series.

Led by Deborah Ader of Sullivan’s Ader Farms, campers will learn, over the course of three evenings, the delicate intricacies of a hive full of worker bees and, more importantly, how to harvest their own locally-produced honey.

“Bees are fascinating,” Ader said. “My grandpa used to keep them, and I remember, as a child, talking about bees or having a honeycomb at the dinner table to eat.

“And they’re so interesting, their lifestyle, the way they communicate to each other,” she said. “If they go out to find a bit patch of clover, they come back and do a special dance to let the others know.

“I just never stop learning things about them.”

Beekeeper campers will meet May 29-31 from 5-7 p.m. on campus. The cost is $50.

Campers learn most everything they need to know about setting up their own colonies, from the inner-workings of a hive’s ecosystem to what’s needed to pollenate and even cost-saving tips.

“And even if you’re a seasoned beekeeper, there is always more to learn from Deborah Ader,” said Cindy Beaman, director of university events. “I call her the ‘Bee Whisperer.'”

VU called upon Ader last year and she hosted the inaugural camp to rave reviews.

Justin Stanczak, a senior programer at VU, began toying in beekeeping two years ago. After taking Ader’s camp last summer, he’s developed two, bustling hives.

“This camp definitely gets you up to speed if you’ve never dealt with bees,” he said. “And even if you have, I think it could still be really beneficial.

“You learn things about feeding, how to spot signs of trouble in your hive, and (Ader) passes along some of her own, proven techniques.”

Stanczak said he’s nurtured his own hives not necessarily to sell honey — he gives it away to family and co-workers — but because he is fascinated with a bee’s ecosystem. Watching them, he said, is interesting.

“I find it exciting, watching, seeing how nature works,” he said. “And the benefit, just like having your own garden, is having fresh honey when you want it.”

And contrary to popular belief, hives aren’t, he added, a lot of work. He likens them to an aquarium, which often functions better when left alone. He often goes months, he said, without looking in on his bees.

“The less you mess with them the better,” he said. “But that’s hard for the beekeeper. I often want to get in and look at them all the time.”

Ader has been caring for her own hives for more than eight years. She often splits hives for others, too, and rescues those who don’t want swarms or hives on their properties or near their homes.

She considers herself, she said, a “backyard beekeeper,” as she’s not in it for the money.

Her operation has, however, grown significantly over the years, and she now cares for many hives. Oftentimes, she can garner 60 pounds of honey from one box.

She takes only what she needs, she said, and leaves more than enough for her bees through the winter months.

But just as important, she said, has been offering her knowledge to others who share her interest.

“These are wild insects,” she said. “So you have to learn what they’re doing, how you can keep them there and healthy.

“During the camp, we start with the very basics, the home life of a bee, then we talk about the equipment you’ll need and even how to inspect your hive.”

Ader also said beekeepers don’t have to live in rural areas either. With all the blooming flowers and plants, many places here in Vincennes, she said, would be perfect.

“A lot of times, right inside town is a really good place,” she said. “You do not need a lot of room. You just need to make sure your neighbors are aware that you’ll have bees.

“But most of the time (honeybees) are pretty gentle.”

To register, visit www.vinu.edu/summer-camps. Or Beaman can be reached at 812-888-4125.